Then: No helmet, no petrol.
Now: No helmet, fill it up.
The Patna administration’s directive to petrol pumps that fuel should not be given to bikers without helmets has turned into vapour.
The directive, issued on March 29 this year, was initially enforced strictly, but five months down the line, the rule, just like so many others in the city, is being flouted with impunity.
The directive had been issued to ensure two-wheeler users adhere to traffic norms in a city where unruly driving has become a bane for its residents.
The Telegraph on Friday went around the city and found that very few petrol pumps are following the rule. They are not the only ones at fault, though. We, the people, including law-protectors and lawyers, are equally to blame as bikers without helmets insisted that their tanks be filled up when some conscientious pump attendants showed them the rulebook.
The Telegraph’s pump patrol began from the outlet near the high court. A middle-aged man, who appeared to be in his early forties, rode in without a helmet. He was a policeman. “Kya hua? Petrol dalo, mein bahut jaldi me hoon (What happened? Fill the tank, I am in a hurry),” he barked to the attendant.
The attendant had no choice but to fill up.
A few minutes later, a helmet-less advocate, wearing his robes, came by. This time, one of the attendants interrupted and said: “Sir, bina helmet ke petrol dena mana hai, prasasan ke adesh hai (Sir, you will not get the petrol without helmet, it’s the administration’s order).”
The advocate scoffed at the attendant’s appeal. “Tum ko jaida pata hai kya niyam kanoon ke bare me, hamse bhi jyada jante ho kya? (Do you think you know the law better than I do?) Don’t you dare teach me such things. Just fill the tank. I have other things to do,” was the reply.
The attendant had to comply.
The pump manager, Sudama Singh, said he was helpless. “Do you think these people will listen to us? Are we supposed to fight with them? At best we can only request them, nothing more than that,” he said.
The next destination for The Telegraph team was a pump on Boring Canal Road. Most bikers were without helmets, some had caps on.
One such biker came up and, with a smile on his face, said: “Sau rupaye ke petrol dena (Give me petrol of Rs 100).”
The attendant tried to be firm. “Aap ne helmet nahi pahna hai, petrol nahi milega (You are not wearing a helmet so we will not give you the petrol).”
The young man just shrugged. “What do you think of yourself? Are you the only petrol pump in Patna? There are hundreds of petrol pumps and I can get it from there also. Ultimately you will be at a loss, so without further discussion and wasting time, you better fill up the tank or else I will go to another pump.”
The attendant had to relent. Pump manager Roshan Kumar said: “The bikers should understand this and should follow the rules. At times they are very rude and it becomes difficult for us to convince them. I cannot ask my staff to argue and quarrel with them. If we don’t give them petrol, our boss will shout at us for lower sales.”
The situation was much the same at Agarwal petrol pump near Baas Ghat, where helmet-less bikers were easily getting fuel, though some of the attendants did point to them the rule.
“Jyada niyam kanoon mat jhariye, nahi to dikkat ho jaiyega (Don’t teach too much of rules and regulations, otherwise you will land in trouble),” one such biker warned and left after filling his tank.
The staff at the petrol pump said they were toothless. “I really do not understand why the district administration had issued the directive. We are at the receiving end from both our bosses and the bikers. Life has become hell since the time the directive came into force,” said a staff member on duty.
Even at the pump near Kargil Chowk, one of the busiest in the city, the staff said they had no option but to comply with the helmet-less bikers, though the outlet is located about 500m from two police stations.
District magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh said the administration would crack the whip. “It is really sad to know that petrol pumps are not following the directive. We will again send a fresh directive with a warning letter to them. They are supposed to follow the directive of the district administration. We will make sure that we enforce the directive,” Singh told The Telegraph.
However, Singh added that the bikers are also at fault. “The bikers who are not using helmets should understand that the rule is for their safety itself. But I accept that if petrol pumps act strictly, it would not be possible for anyone to get petrol,” he said.
The law-enforcers live in a very different world, as The Telegraph discovered.
The police who are supposed to ensure that helmet-less bikers do not get petrol are of the view that everything is just fine. City superintendent of police Jayant Kant said: “We had received an order from the district magistrate’s office regarding this directive ands things are going fine, there is no problem in that.”